A Look Back at Our 2016 Gala

In case you were not able to attend our Gala on September 24th, here is a little recap by our Special Events Coordinator, Sara Topp.

It’s hard to truly identify what made this year’s Gala – “Gather at our Table” – such a success.

270 friends in attendance at Shully’s Cuisine & Events in Thiensville, WI,



105 silent and live auction packages,


a farm-to-table inspired meal, locally sourced from our friends at Mantoan Sauve Terre Farm & Three Sisters Community Farm,


the personal stories and friendship shared by former guest families Phyllis Sommer and Kimberly Cluff,



or the dancing to the sounds of the Stray Voltage Band to end the night.



I am certain that each component, in addition to  many more, all played a part in creating an unforgettable and fun evening.

The annual Gala serves as the largest fundraising and friend-raising event the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin hosts each year. It is a year-long effort that involved a team of dedicated individuals who give generously of their time, talent and treasure to support the families we serve. I have the privilege and honor of working with the talented hands behind the scenes to ensure a successful event for the House. We are  proud to announce that we have raised a record-breaking amount of more than $330,000, enabling RMHC to continue to keep families close. We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to our sponsors, guests, vendors and suppliers, dedicated committee members, RMHC staff and volunteers as well as everyone at Shully’s who helped make the night possible!

We hope you will save the date and join us in next year’s fun on Saturday, October 14th, 2017 at The Pfister Hotel downtown Milwaukee.

Intern Takes on House Volunteer Role for a Day

Two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to shadow a House volunteer shift at the House. I was so excited for the opportunity to really get to see what our volunteers do on a day-to-day basis. I had no clue what to expect, so I went in with an open mind.

I walked into the volunteer room and was handed a red apron and a set of keys and I could not have felt any more official. I was then introduced to the other volunteers that I would be shadowing and received a run-down of what a typical shift was like and reviewed the checklist of what needed to be completed during my three-hour shift. It was time to split into groups to accomplish the checklist. My team was sent to help clean a guest room that a family had just checked out of. We went to the basement and grabbed all the sheets, pillows and cleaning supplies needed. One thing that I was most surprised about was how clean the room was even before we started cleaning. The family had clearly taken really took good care of the room.

Once we finished cleaning the room and making the beds we gave a tour to a family who had just checked in and was going to be staying at the House. Just by looking at the parents I could tell they had had a long draining day. When we took them to their room their faces were so relieved to see that they would actually have a bed to sleep on. They could not thank the other volunteer and me enough. I felt like I had helped make a difference in their day even though I had just shown them around the House and took them to their room. I never completely understood the tagline “Keeping Families Close,” but after seeing how this family was going to be so close to their sick child, I realized why it is such a powerful and true statement.

Through my experience of volunteering, I was able to see a different side of the House. I was honored to meet a family who was staying at the House and work alongside the amazing volunteers who are dedicated to coming every day to make sure that this House is in the best condition for all of the families we serve.

Helping our families learn together about gardening, nature and cultivating friendships

This week we asked Ann Philips to do a feature of everything that has been going on and growing in the garden this summer.

Ann Philips is the Lead Gardener for a team of 20 University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener volunteers who care for the Secret Garden. Ann leads a weekly Family Garden Program to help our families learn together about gardening, nature and to cultivate friendships.
Through the generosity of Kohl’s Cares grant we are able to fund the supplies for a vegetable garden! This is growing season we have four beautiful new Cedar raised vegetable beds. Beginning in April we, UW-Extension Master Volunteers, planned and planted our crops with our guest families and staff in Family Garden Education.

We follow Square Foot Gardening, SFG, practices from the book by Mel Bartholomew. Our soil is 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss. It is light, weed free, and nutritious for vegetables. Since the beds are raised, we never walk on the soil giving better air circulation and making it easier to work. The beds are 3’x5’ and 4’x5’ so even our littlest people can reach the center to plant and harvest.

We used string to make a grid of one foot squares in each bed. Following SFG principles we planted the recommended number of seeds or plants in each square. We also planned for cucumbers to replace peas, lettuce and radish to replace harvested potatoes, and more spinach, rainbow chard and kale as space allowed. In our four beds we successfully grew and are harvesting peas, green and yellow bush beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, patty pan squash, zucchini, cherry and Roma tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, carrots, radish, peppers, onions and kohlrabi. We grew containers of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic chives, mint and oregano. We had a Jack and the Beanstalk tower of green beans and our Ketchup and Fries plant, a tomato grafted onto a potato plant. AND we dedicated one bed to herbs for use in cooking. We have basil, parsley, cilantro, stevia, pineapple sage, nasturtium, rosemary and thyme.

Every Thursday we garden together, enjoying the simple pleasures of being outside, harvesting what we have nurtured and being a part of nature. We read books about the garden (and write our own), play garden games, raise monarch caterpillars and learn about the many birds we see. This is our families’ back yard, they can pick ripe vegetables anytime and use them in their family meals. We also take our vegetables and herbs up to the kitchen for general use. Every day in the garden is an adventure!

We are growing gardeners, cultivating friendship and harvesting hope.

-Ann Philips

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Happy National Pancake Day!

McDonalds-Hotcakes-3pcs-065-heroSince pancakes are my favorite food and breakfast is my favorite meal I had to make sure and write about them at some point in my time blogging for you guys. What better way to talk about and celebrate pancakes than to fill you in on the Family Meal Program at RMHC that provides brunch and other meals to the families we serve? Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. in the second floor family meal kitchen. By serving families brunch on the weekends and dinner almost every night we hope to try and relieve some of our families financial burdens and allow them to spend more time with each other and focus on their sick child. The Family Meal Program provides meals 365 days a year!

The most common meals that are served during Family Dinner are usually chicken, tacos and pasta, but one of the favorite meals here at the House is breakfast for dinner, I mean who doesn’t love some flapjacks for dinner? There is something about pancakes that make you feel like you are at home on a Sunday morning eating brunch with your family. The loving hands that prepare these comforting foods for the families help create that homelike feeling even though they may be far from home.

Thank you to everyone that has served or provided dinners or brunches for families here at the House, you are one of the key pieces to helping us Keeping Families Close.

If you and your family and friends are interested in providing a dinner or brunch for the families here at the house and want to learn more about our Family Meal Program, click here. If you already know you want to volunteer check out our calendar to find the available date for a family meal.

A Forest Fantasy

Jaci, a 16-IMG_0908year-old girl who dreams of being an artist, wanted to give back to the Ronald McDonald House by using her amazing artistic talent. When searching for the best place in the house for Jaci to display her talent, the play room was chosen. We did not tell Jaci what to draw, we just let mind run free and this beautiful masterpiece was created.

When Jaci was two-years old her journey with the Ronald McDonald House Charities began. Doctors found a tumor in both her chest and neck. Her first surgery to remove the tumors was nine and half hours long. This was only the first of Jaci’s 31 surgeries, all happening before she turned 14 years old. While Jaci was going through her surgeries, she and her family stayed at Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House on several occasions. Jaci said that she will never forget staying at the house and how comforting it was. Drawing and painting has become such a huge part of Jaci’s life that she wanted to use her talents to give back in some way. Through Jaci’s mural she hopes to brighten the days of the families staying here at the house.

After the unveiling of the mural our families and guests enjoyed  a delicious apple nachos bar,   If you are looking for a fun fall treat I would highly recommend googling apple nachos, you will not regret it . Click here for the link to the recipe.

Jaci with Mural  IMG_4735  IMG_0908  IMG_4726


All About Me-Lindsay Solheid

Hi! My name is Lindsay Solheid and I am the new Marketing and PR intern here at the House. I will be the main blogger for this semester and I cannot wait to share with you all the fun and exciting things going on here at the House. So a little about myself: I am a junior at Marquette University studying Public Relations and Marketing. I am originally from Mankato, Minnesota. I loved the cold winters so much that I decided to stay in the Midwest for college.

The Ronald McDonald House has always had a spot in my heart. My grandfather built and ran five local McDonald’s in my hometown and now my aunt and my mom have taken over and are continuing the legacy. My family always stresses how important it is to give back to your community and shows this by donating to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

One of my earliest memories is saving pop tabs and running into McDonald’s to put them in the big house pop tab container. I remember being six years old and my mom taking me to tour the Ronald McDonald house in Minneapolis. I was expecting it to look exactly like a hospital, I could not have been more wrong. It was one of the most welcoming places I had ever been in. The way they showed compassion and care for families was heartwarming. Before I came to the Eastern Wisconsin House, I was wondering how different things would be since it had been 14 years since I had been inside a Ronald McDonald House. Once again I was overcome by the feeling of hominess. To see the love and dedication that everyone working here puts into this house is amazing and I could not be more excited to join the team!

One of my favorite things about the House is its mission, to help keep families close. I think that this is such a powerful mission. It shows that everyone working here is dedicated to making sure that families can stay close while they are going through a very difficult time. As hard as it can be for parents to have to leave their child in a hospital overnight, the comfort of being able to be staying right across the street and be to their child in 10 minutes is incredible. The amenities that have been put into place for families to remain close are amazing. Families can easily walk across the pedestrian bridge so they don’t need to drive back and forth from the hospital, they can be contacted by the night manager if the hospital needs to get ahold of them and the nine kitchens allow families to have meals together. The list of amenities goes on and on but those are some of the ones that I think are the most important in keeping families close.

Now you know a little about me and why I love Ronald McDonald House Charities. I cannot wait to learn more things about this amazing organization and help you all learn somethings you may have not known. 


Savoring Summer in the Secret Garden

Every day is new and beautiful in the Secret Garden and August is especially colorful and interesting. We have nesting birds, hopping toads and frogs, hungry bunnies, ripening vegetables, awe inspiring Hardy Hibiscus and Passion Vine flowers.

A unique aspect of the Secret Garden is that it is the backyard for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. As Lead Gardener, I, with my team of 20 UW-Extension Master Gardener volunteers, work to create an interactive garden.

In Family Garden Education we planted seed potatoes in April, dug potatoes together at the end of July, then built a clock using two of the potatoes for battery power! The remaining potatoes were enjoyed for family dinner!

Our potatoes are planted in grow bags. These grow bags remind us all that only one pot is needed for a garden! One of our grow bags has a “Ketchup ‘N Fries” plant, this means a cherry tomato plant that was grafted to a potato plant. We are picking tomatoes from the top, but come fall we can dig up those potatoes!IMG_2544

Together we are raising Monarch caterpillars. As a Monarch Way Station we have several kinds of Asclepias growing and many nectar plants blooming. We have released one male and two females named by the children, “Giovanni”, “Pretty Girl” and “Butterfly Cop”. They can be seen watching over us when we’re in the Garden. There are two more chrysalises expected to open soon!

Guests and UW-Extension Master Gardener volunteers planted two containers with plants to attract butterflies. They include Rudbeckia, Verbena, Lantana, Salvia and Supertunia.IMG_2540

A dedicated UW-Extension Master Gardener volunteer created a container for hummingbirds. Three Salivas, Black and Blue, Red Summer Jewel and Vista Purple invite visitors to sit and appreciate their beauty and encourage the Hummers to come and linger. Our two feeders are cleaned and filled with syrup each week.

The Fairy Garden is a surprise as you leave the warm sunshine and turn the corner into the shade. The Fairies appreciate notes with messages like “Love you gis” and “I may be old, but not too old to believe in magic.”

The Living Fossil Plant Garden is populated with roaming dinosaurs who lived among these very plants 150 million years ago. There are Ferns, Mosses, Horsetails,  Norfolk Pines and Cycad.

Our families come from every state. We have had fun together learning about Wisconsin native plants. On a scavenger hunt to find these plants we also gathered leaves and flowers to make sun prints. Using photo sensitive paper we created cards of beautiful garden silhouettes, exposed them to the sunlight for only 5 minutes, rinsed them and marveled in the results!



Summer in the Secret Garden is full of delights and renewal. Evening paths are lit and white, while chartreuse plants stand out for evening walks. Crickets, cicadas, birds, water cascading, leaves and grasses rustling make night time music.

Be sure you savor this season!


Ann Philips is the Lead Gardener for a team of 20 University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener volunteers who care for the Secret Garden. Ann leads a weekly Family Garden Program to help our families learn together about gardening, nature and to cultivate friendships.

Praise for Peace blog post picture

Praise for Peace

This coming Saturday, August 27, McDonald’s “Praise for Peace” Gospel experience will be held at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. The proceeds of this concert will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin (RMHC)!

This “Praise for Peace” experience will feature an evening of Gospel music performed by some of the biggest names in gospel music including Bishop William Murphy, the Shekinah Glory Ministry, Pastor Marlon Lock & Charlin Neal of Israel & New Breed.

There is no charge for the event, because we want to be sure that all of Milwaukee is able to attend. All donations from the event will go to RMHC so that that we can continue our mission of keeping families close.

Robert Pyles, a McDonald’s franchise owner, said to FOX-6’s Real Milwaukee that this event is a way to “give something back and bring the community together.”

RMHC never turns away a family for their inability to pay the suggested $20 per night donation. We’re committed to providing families a place to stay that can be their home away from home. Having the community help us with our mission is a wonderful and inspiring experience.

Robert Pyles talked about uniting the community, “Before we talk about peace in the street we have to have peace at home. We’re showing that when you bring business together and churches together it’s a big thing.”

If you want a sneak preview of Marlon Lock’s performance of “Hang On,” which is about the struggles facing families and individuals in modern society, check out this link to the Real Milwaukee interview and learn more about the event! http://fox6now.com/2016/08/09/music-that-matters-a-group-of-gospel-singers-are-coming-together-to-give-back-to-the-community/

We’re so lucky to be a part of this wonderful experience and we hope that you can come out and join us this Saturday!

August Pantry Drive

August Pantry Drive

The families that stay with us at the Ronald McDonald House have come from all 50 states and more than 20 different countries around the world. Our goal is to give them a “home away from home” no matter where they’re from.  Some of our families find joy in cooking and we are happy to be able to provide families with kitchens and the ingredients necessary  to help them create and enjoy a family meal together.

Did you know we have nine full kitchens here at the House? All of these kitchens are an important part of providing our families with delicious and nutritious meals. Each family is assigned a personal pantry and refrigerator space to keep meals and snacks on-hand and ready to eat in one of our seven family use kitchens. Lunches-2-Go and Family Meals are also prepared in the House in our other two kitchens. Providing the families we serve with healthy food is one of our priorities.

During the month of August we’re running a pantry drive to help provide our families with some favorite items:

  • Cans of fruit and applesauce
  • Cans of ravioli, beefaroni, spaghettios and  chili
  • Individual snacks (small bags of nuts, cheezits, pretzels etc.)
  • Ready-to-eat boxed food like Hamburger Helper or Campbell’s meals
  • Pasta Sauce both red and white
  • Granola Bars
  • Individual boxed cereal and large cereal boxes
  • Boxed desserts (cakes, brownies, cookies)
  • Olive oil
  • Saran wrap

If you have pantry items that you would like to donate, please drop them off at the House any day between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.! You can help us accomplish our goal to collect 250 food items by the end of August.

If you are looking for other ways to help, we also have the Family Meal Program. This program allows our families to enjoy a meal prepared by volunteers after spending the day with their child at the hospital. Our volunteers’ time, service, and hospitality are essential to make sure our families can always share a meal together.

Many of us think of the kitchen as the heart of the home and that is certainly true at our Ronald McDonald House!  Our families build community around the kitchen table and support each other as they share a meal provided by wonderful volunteer groups.  You can help us meet our goal to make sure our pantries have everything our families need by donating wish list items in the month of August. We truly appreciate your generous support!

Written by Megan Halbur, RMHC Eastern Wisconsin Marketing Intern

Golf Blog photo

RMHC Golf Classic

We are so happy that over 200 golfers came out to golf “Fore” our families on Monday, July 25th. Golfers of all different skill levels came out to support the House at the 33rd Annual Golf Classic at Ironwood Golf Course in Sussex, WI. Thank you so much to everyone who played a round of golf,donated items for our raffle or auction, volunteered to help, stopped by our silent auction, or participated in the raffle!

Once again we had amazing sponsors who supported the event! We’re so thankful for them and especially our lead sponsors; ATI/ATI Foundation, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Peter Schwabe Inc., and Hydrite Chemical Co!

Incase you missed this year’s Golf Classic, here’s a recap:

A beautiful sunny, warm summer day on a gorgeous golf course set the stage for our event! Our hosts at Ironwood Golf Course made sure every detail was taken care of and provided great support throughout the day.

There was some truly fantastic food including breakfast sandwiches by The Gouda Girls, savory sliders grilled to perfection by our Kohl’s Cares volunteers, delicious boxed lunches thanks to Cousins Subs, hors d’oeuvres prepared by Maxie’s, and sweet treats from the Corner Bakery that rounded out the spread of great food.

There were also some fun libations including Bloody Mary’s with all the fixings from Sobelmans, refreshing coca cola products courtesy of Coca Cola, Vodka Lemonades and so much more.

Our very own celebrity, Ronald McDonald, stopped by to take pictures on the course with the teams to celebrate the day. He took a few swings himself and had fun encouraging our golfers!

Hole-in-One challenges amped up the competition as golfers competed for prizes. For those who couldn’t snag a hole-in-one victory, there were enticing and unique auction and raffle items they could take home with them.

Thanks again to all the generous sponsors and great golfers that came out to help support our families! We hope to see you next year , mark your calendars for Monday, July 24th!